While serving a sentence for killing his mother - a crime he insisted he didn't commit - Jacko Argyle dies in prison. Two years later, the man who could have supported Jacko's alibi suddenly turns up. It appears that Jacko was innocent... and that the murderer is part of the surviving family.
The novel was first published in 1958 by William Collins Son & Co. in London, and in 1959 by Dodd, Mead & Co. in New York. It was filmed in 1984 by Golan-Gobus Productions in England starring Donald Sutherland, Sarah Miles and Christopher Plummer. The film adheres closely to the novel. The New York Times described the novel as one of Christie's most engaging works. "Characteristically surprising, trickily constructed and yet firmly based in character..."
This book is dedicated, “To Billy Collins with affection and gratitude.” It was he who lured Christie from the Bodley Head, which published her first six books, to Williams Collins Sons & Co in 1926. Now known as HarperCollins this company is UK publisher of Christie’s books to this day. An adaptation of tihs novel was broadcast, with the addition of Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, in 2007.
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Ordeal by Innocence is one of Christie’s darkest books, with a strong focus on psychology and the nature of evil, but it was one of her favourites. She wrote “Of my detective books, I think the two that satisfy me best are Crooked House and Ordeal by Innocence.”
Philip John Stead noted the distinct change of tone in his review in The Times Literary Supplement. “What has become of the blitheness, the invigorating good spirits with which the game of detection is played in so many of her stories?” he wrote. “Ordeal by Innocence slips out of that cheerful arena into something much too like an attempt at psychological fiction, Miss Marple and Poirot would thoroughly disapprove of the whole business”.
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